You may have picked up on the term ‘positive parenting’ floating around the internet, or from parenting groups, but what does it actually mean? Positive parenting is not the term you would think to turn to when looking for help with your kids, especially if you feel like your days are a tug of war between you and your children, trying to get them to behave and perform even the simplest of tasks. It would seem fairly straightforward that positive parenting is a lighter way to discipline your child, with possibly no discipline at all, but this is not the case. Positive parenting is about holding your children to realistic standards and giving them clear expectations of their behavior. Through positive parenting, you will be building a deeper, and stronger relationship with your child, with open communication and mutual respect. It is not just teaching your children to behave, but teaching them why they should. Read on to further learn about positive parenting, and whether it is the right option for your family.  

What Is Positive Parenting?

Positive parenting is not taking an easy-route to discipline. It is based on raising a child who understands why good behavior is important, and exactly what is expected of them. The success of positive parenting lies with developing a strong and committed relationship between a parent and their child, with this relationship based on mutual respect and open communication. It recognizes that not only is it important to teach your child proper behavior but to teach them why they should behave in such a way. Raising your children through positive parenting means giving them tools to make the right decisions on their own, instead of using fear of punishment as a deterrent. When children understand why they are expected to act a certain way and have respect for themselves and their family, they will want to internalize discipline and keep themselves on the right track. Your child will learn self-control and self-regulation and become more self-aware of how their actions have consequences and affect those around them. Self-aware children become self-aware adults, and this is such a great trait to have throughout life.  

Where Does Positive Parenting Come From?

Moving away from harsh discipline and teaching by fear was conceptualized by Alfred Adler, who studied human psychology in the early 1900s. Back then, the world had a very strict view on how to raise children and believed that children needed to follow very heavy rules and be punished if they stepped out of line. However, Adler thought differently and offered the idea that children deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, just like everyone else. While this was against the thinking at the time, it is now a widely accepted ideal, which is the reason positive parenting is becoming more popular. Adler worked with psychiatrist Rudolf Dreikurs, and together they proposed that parents should treat their children with respect, but avoid coddling and spoiling children. Positive parenting is supposed to create self-awareness and self-discipline, not self-centeredness, and lack of empathy. Jane Nelsen, Ed.D, went on to use the philosophies from Adler and Dreikurs to come up with Positive Discipline, which is what forms the basis of positive parenting. While different specialists have slightly varied outlooks, they all agree that positive parenting should be based on the idea that parents need to be compassionate and firm at the same time.

[Want to learn more? Check out 10 Warning Signs That You Might Be A Helicopter Parent (And How To Stop)]

The Three Principles Of Positive Parenting

Positive parenting is made up of three principles. These three principles form the basis of positive parenting, and if followed, should help you to raise a child who can think for themselves and regulate their own behavior. The three principles of positive parenting are:  

1. A Child’s Primary Goal Is To Feel Significant And As If They Belong

After all of the other primary needs, a child will crave to belong and to feel significant. Belonging is the feeling of being connected and feeling wanted, such as being an important part of a family. For a child, this means feeling connected emotionally to the people in his family and to feel he has a special place in the family. A child’s sense of belonging can shift when big changes happen, such as the divorcing of parents or a new sibling being born. This can often lead to regressive behaviors, however, if you understand where the behavior is coming from, and why it is happening, you will be able to guide your child through them and address them effectively. Feeling significant is also so important in a child’s life, they need to feel and know that they can offer a meaningful contribution, and make a difference in their family. A child must feel like he is able to exert his own power over his own world, being responsible for themselves. This allows your child to have power and the free will to exert it how they wish. Without this power of free will, a child will likely act negatively, using this to get the control they are missing.  

2. Behavior Is Goal Orientated

Your child acting naughty, or making a bad choice, is for a reason. They might not be able to tell you what this reason is, but it is a symptom of an issue and not the actual problem. Once parents accept that misbehavior is caused by a root issue, they can then address this cause in a way that shows results. Simply correcting bad behavior is placing a bandaid on a much bigger wound, whereas addressing the root cause of the behavior helps it heal.

3. A Misbehaving Child Is Discouraged, Not Bad

A misbehaving child is not a bad child, an uncontrollable child, or a defiant child, they are a discouraged child. This discouragement might stem from not feeling significant or as if they belong, and the bad behavior is their way of telling you this. Do not view misbehavior as an act of defiance, but rather as a cry for help. Instead of getting upset, try and understand what might be happening and see if there are emotional needs that aren’t being met. You will notice a huge improvement of behavior if you start viewing misbehaving as a sign of something being wrong, rather than a shortcoming in your child.

How To Practice Positive Parenting

It is all fair and well understanding the principles behind positive parenting, and what positive parenting actually means, but it is all worth nothing if you do not know how to implement it into your and your child’s life. You need to know how to apply these practices to help your child develop the tools they need to become independent and responsible for their own actions. Here are some strategies that parents can use every day to practice positive parenting:

Treat The Cause

As explained, bad behavior does not mean a bad child, it means that there is something else off, and it is just a symptom of a bigger cause. You need to look to treat the cause and not the symptoms. If your child is constantly hitting her sibling, it might have to do with jealousy. If your child feels like she needs to compete for attention, this might show up as bad behavior. Try to understand underlying problems so you can work with your child to better the situation.

Avoid Saying No

Avoiding saying no can have quite a profound impact. We overuse the word ‘no’ so much with our children that it starts to lose its meaning. Instead of telling your child no, which they probably won’t listen to, you need to redirect them. This follows the principle of focusing on solving a problem instead of opting for punishment and fear.

React With Empathy And Logic

As the parent, you need to set the example. You also need to make parenting a positive experience, creating a fun and rewarding environment, instead of surrounding yourself with stress and chaos. Do not react to your child with anger irritation, rather address the situation with empathy and logic. Reacting negatively, shouting, or being irrational can just aggravate your child’s emotional state even more. Consider what your child is feeling, talk to them calmly and respectfully, and present consequences later on once your child is out of the fight-or-flight mode and is able to absorb what they have done.

Set Limits

Your child will learn boundaries when you set clear limits. This could mean not engaging in an argument with your child, but instead giving them acknowledgment and then walking away. They will learn not to argue in an emotional state and will understand the boundary.

Give Them A Voice

While you should not argue with your child, they do need to feel heard. It is important to set up a time each week for your children to come to you and present their feelings and opinions with you listening and there being no arguing. This gives the whole family a chance to air their concerns and open up the floor to solutions.

Do Not Shame Mistakes

Don’t make your child feel ashamed of their mistakes. Have open, positive conversations about mistakes, and reinforce the idea that mistakes are merely opportunities to learn. Speak about your mistakes made each day and what you have learned from them. This will help your child feel encouraged and more positive about making mistakes.

Make Quality Time

It is so important to prioritize quality time with your child. Not every family is the same, and the quality time you spend with your child will depend on their age as well. It might mean special story time with your toddler each night, or a milkshake date with your teenager once a week. This helps boost their self-esteem and reinforces their feeling of being loved, which will reflect in better behavior.

Be A Leader

As a parent you need to set your child up for success, you need to lead them on the right path, but you should not control them. Stray away from giving them commands, and instead pose questions to them to make them feel as though they are making the choice to cooperate. Children will behave well on their own if they see parents as being on their team, and not as the police.

[Want to learn more? See What is the Difference Between Praising Your Child and Encouraging Your Child?]

How Do I Learn About Positive Parenting?

Positive parenting is becoming a norm with how families choose to raise their children. Because of this, there are so many resources available for parents to use to learn about positive parenting. You can find resources online, reading up on research articles and different opinions and experiences. There are also some online parenting classes you can take which will walk you through the different aspects of positive parenting, and how you can implement it in your life. You can also look for parenting classes around your area that focus on teaching positive parenting. This is a great opportunity to have face-to-face time with experts in the field and to engage and ask questions. You will also meet parents in the same situation as you, which could help you build a support system. To learn about Positive Parenting we strongly recommend checking out Positive Parenting Solutions by Amy McCready. You can register for one of her online classes for free here.  Or why not check out our detailed review of her paid program here.

[Want to learn more? Read here about How to Get Through 2022 as a Family]

Positive Parenting Tips

Implementing positive parenting can take some work, and if you have been taking more of a discipline-heavy and chaotic routine in your home, a few extra tips might help you and your family adapt to the new form of parenting.

Focus on the family each day

Set aside all distractions and electronics and connect with your children, giving them your undivided attention to nurturing a connection.

Know your child’s love language and follow it

Find out what your child’s love language is, and then use this to make them happy. This will make them feel loved and closer to you, they will feel more accepted, seen, and understood.

Step into their world

It can be difficult to remember that your child is just a child, they do not think like us. It is so important to step down to their level and enter into their world. Play dress up with them or see a movie of their choice. Engage and listen to them, make them feel like you really do take an interest in their lives.

Create loving rituals

There are lots of opportunities throughout the day to create rituals with your child, whether it be a special morning greeting or a bedtime routine of stories and kisses. These few moments show them that you do enjoy spending time with them, and it works to nourish a connection.

Foster trust

It is so incredibly important for your child to feel like they can trust you. You need to build trust from day one, and this can be by keeping your promises, responding to their cries, avoiding embarrassing them in public, being a good listener, and respecting their privacy.

The Benefits Of Positive Parenting

There are some wonderful benefits of positive parenting, and each family can benefit differently from implementing the methods into their everyday routines.

Stronger parent/child relationships

Positive parenting helps to build healthier relationships between parents and children. Parents are more sensitive, consistent, and responsive, which means children feel more comfortable to approach their parents, and overall more optimistic and motivated to choose the right behavior.

It fosters respect

One of the main building blocks of positive parenting is building mutual respect between parent and child. This results in parents helping their children understand why rules are made, and children trusting and respecting their parents enough to follow these rules. Children will be more likely to approach parents with problems and their emotions if they feel their parents respect them.

It sets a positive example

Positive parenting requires parents to act empathetically and logically, avoiding irritability and aggressiveness. This sets a great example for their children to follow. Children learn their behavior by watching those closest to them, so make sure the example you are setting is a good one.

It boosts self-esteem

Positive parenting helps to build self-esteem in children, by parents making their children feel valued, supported and significant. If children feel more confident to choose their own behaviors, and have the encouragement that they are doing so well, they will be surer of themselves going forward.

Disadvantages Of Positive Parenting

There are always pros and cons to different styles of parenting, so it is good to consider both the benefits and disadvantages to decide if it is right for you. One disadvantage of positive parenting is that there are no serious consequences to actions, and some children might take advantage of this and use it to get their way. Some parents might not set proper boundaries and consequences, and without them, children will continue to push the limits until they get their way. With positive parenting, parents and children need to share mutual respect, and while this is so important, it might flip and the children might feel like they are on the same level as their parents, and therefore not listen to them when boundaries are set or consequences are handed out. It is good to have mutual respect, but a line needs to be drawn where a parent is a parent, and a child still needs to respect this. Leaving your child to make their own decisions when it comes to good behavior can be risky if they have not been given the right tools to do so. They might feel overwhelmed and begin to overthink what the right choice or behavior is, and at a young age this could cause anxiety.

The Challenges Of Positive Parenting

Positive parenting takes a lot of work, you need to nurture and foster a sense of mutual respect between you and your child, always be consistent with how you react and behave with your child, and continue to keep an open line of communication with your child. Consistency is key, but it can be really difficult to remain consistent when every other aspect of life gets in the way. Finances, work, emotional and physical needs can all drain your energy, making it difficult to remain consistent with your positive parenting strategies. It might also be difficult to maintain positive parenting strategies throughout the different aspects of your child’s life. It might not be the way discipline is dealt with at school, and this can be confusing for your child. It helps to look for schools and childcare where your parenting methods and beliefs are shared.

How Positive Parenting Encourages Personal Development

Positive parenting strengthens the relationship between parent and child and helps the child develop a sense of empathy and develop their self-discipline. There are some great ways that positive parenting helps to encourage your child’s personal development:
  • Positive parenting boosts emotional development. It shows them that there is a way to deal with their emotions positively, and teaches them to be calm and positive. This in turn allows for children to reflect on their behavior, and decide how to deal with their emotions in the future. It helps them feel safe and secure with their feelings.
  • When children know what is expected of them and know that their parents have their best interests at heart, they will strive to do their best and to follow the right path. They will be making the right choices because they want to, not because they are fearful of punishment or disappointment.
  • As a parent takes the time and effort to understand their child’s feelings, they are teaching their child to be more empathetic themselves and to be more responsive to other people’s emotions. Being empathic allows children to better understand the world around them.

Skills For Positive Parenting

The below skills will not only help you practice positive parenting better, but they will help make parenting a little easier overall:
  • Make sure to actively listen to what your children have to say.
  • Practice good judgment and stick to your boundaries and rules.
  • Be a good role model and set a good example.
  • Be in control of your emotions and be empathetic with your children.
  • Make a habit of quality time with your child.
  • Try to see the world from your child’s point of view.
There are so many wonderful benefits with positive parenting, but one of the best has to be the close relationship it encourages between parent and child, building a strong relationship that will create better communication and respect. With positive parenting, you will be giving your child the tools they need to self-discipline, and to make the right decisions for the rest of their lives.

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Rebecca Brown_One of the stuff4tots authors
Rebecca Brown

Rebecca Brown is a mom to two and writer on all things parenting. She has been focussed on content creation and article writing for the last four years, drawing on the inspiration she gets from her own experience as a mother, and the expansive research the job requires.

When not writing, you can find Rebecca outside with the kids, or hidden away enjoying a good cup of coffee!